5 Years On: Trends in Web Design, SEO and Social Media
What is Google Trends?
Google trends is a really useful tool that let's us see how searching has changed over time. In addition to monitoring gradual declines or inclines in any subject, you can really see the spikes in the number of searches for current affairs like Brexit or Donald Trump:
As you can see five years ago (before the term "Brexit" even existed), there were no searches. Then when the result of the referendum to leave the EU was announced on 24th June 2016, searches for Brexit went crazy!
As for Donald Trump, we can see a steady build up of searches for "Donald Trump" and then a huge spike when he wins the election around November 8th 2016.
What About the Trends in Web Design?
That's all very interesting and shows the power and accuracy of Google Trends, but in this blog we are primarily focused on Web Design, Development, SEO and Online Marketing.
So for Web Design we see a bit of a sad story, a slow decline:
So hang on, less people are buying website? Well no, but the industry is changing. Bespoke websites are no longer the choice of small businesses who have limited funds and want to just get something up and running quickly.
The Rise of SaaS Websites
For those who don't know, SaaS stands for Software as a Service and basically means you pay monthly to use an online software service. Wix and Squarespace are basically SaaS website "makers", so let's throw them into the mix.
As you can see below, Wix and Squarespace are enjoying much larger search volumes than they were 5 years ago, with Wix passing "Web Design" as a search query somewhere back around late 2012/13:
It's kindof depressing reading for us web designers. However, you need to decide what market you are in. If you are going to target startups and small businesses you will need to be competitive on price and offer some USP's that Wix and other do it yourself tools don't have.
If you're in the market for larger companies then no doubt things have become more competitive, but these clients have the budget to go bespoke and pay to get exactly what they want. They won't be interested in a SaaS service anyway.
Even for startups, if they have the budget, they may prefer to have the more personal touch of dealing with a Web Designer rather than a huge corporation where they represent a small customer in the grand scheme of things. Certainly, it continues to be extremely important for us agencies to offer the best possible customer service.
What About SEO and the Social Media Explosion?
It's no suprise that there has been an upward trend in social media over the last five years. SEO remains strong of course. It's not an either/or situation like it was above with web design or Wix/Squarespace. A good business will want to harness the power of both SEO and social media to drive traffic to their website.
Unlike web design, if you form a social media company, you can rest assured that you are in a growing market place, at least from a "searches on Google" perspective. However, how many other social media companies are being formed at the same time? Will the bubble burst? It's hard to see social media going away, but it will no doubt become more and more competitive.
What Next for Web Design?
Medium to larger businesses will always want bespoke branding and identity to set themselves apart. They'll always want a bespoke website too, so they can perfectly convey their brand, services and products and do what they need to do to maintain a healthy and profitable online business.
However, there is no doubt that things have changed massively over the last 5-10 years. Ten years ago, you could put a new site live with very little in the way of SEO or inbound links and it would be found in Google. Now though, Google is a much more competitive place and it takes a lot more work to be found.
Of course, for users it's a good thing because they are seeing much higher quality results.
Web Design Agencies are facing increasingly more competitive market places with a lot of smaller customers going for SaaS solutions like Wix instead of bespoke websites. Web agencies will need to be even more careful to offer not just technical know-how and great design skills, but really great customer service because that is now an important USP vs the large SaaS companies which are going for total volume rather than a select bunch of important customers.
But if the SaaS providers can also offer a decent level of customer service and offer a feature rich proposition, then they could easily retain customers and continue to grow their businesses.